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May 04

Book Review: The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson

What’s It About

I only read a third of the novel, but apparently it’s set twenty years after the 7-novels that form The Saga of the Seven Suns.  So it’s both a Book One and a Book Eight.

Representative Paragraph

Because I don’t want to be criticised for cherry-picking the worst example of Anderson’s leaden prose, here’s a choice of three…

As the two closely orbiting halves of the binary planet adjusted their dance of celestial mechanics, Garrison had analyzed the orbital pirouette, uncovering fourth-order resonances that he suspected would make the fragments dip fractionally closer to each other, increasing stresses. He studied the melting points, annealing strengths, and ceramic-lattice structure of the habitat and factory towers.

… and…

Nira stiffened. Despite making peace with her past, there were still nights she wrestled with nightmares of how the Dobro Designate had forced himself upon her in the breeding chambers . . . and he had only been one of the many breeders from various kiths assigned to impregnate her. From that succession of experiments to see what sort of halfbreed child a human green priest might produce, five of the children had lived, but eight others had been such misshapen horrors that they were stillborn—merciful miscarriages.

… and…

Tom Rom had a lean and muscular body that she admired without the least bit of arousal. Though she loved him more than any other human being, he was not her lover. No one had ever been her lover. The thought of physical intimacy disgusted her. The sharing of bodily fluids—not just semen but saliva, perspiration, sloughed-off skin cells, pubic hairs, even exhaled breath—not only repelled her, it sent her into a panic. She abhorred the thought of kissing someone, holding hands, touching in the most intimate of fashions.

Should I Read it? / Commentary

Thumper’s Law tells us that, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all,” and it’s for this reason I’ve joined together the “Should I Read it?” and “Commentary” sections of this review.  I’m not going to do the author or myself the disservice of spending 1,000 words ranting about a book I didn’t finish.

Having said that, I want to make it abundantly clear that I didn’t set out to “hate-read” The Dark Between The Stars.*  As I did last year with Vox Day’s Hugo nominated novelette, the dull but competently written Opera Vita Aeterna, I began reading Anderson’s novel with an open mind.  It would have been pleasure to report to you all how much I loved this book, how I was entertained by all the space opera shenanigans and galaxy spanning ideas, how the novel reminded me fondly of my early teenage years when I swallowed down the Lensman series.

But it wasn’t to be.

As I said on this episode of the Coode Street podcast with Jonathan Strahan and James Bradley, the prose is leaden, there’s far too much exposition and just when you think the novel doesn’t have room for another character introduction, a new character is introduced.  And the biggest sin of all, very little happens in the opening third.  Even the destruction of a refinery, which should have been a spectacular set piece, is weighed down by ponderous prose.

Without wandering into the politics of ballots and log rolling and evil right and left wing conspiracies, I do genuinely wonder how a book this poorly written and dull was considered to be an excellent example of fast moving and exciting SF.

So, no, you shouldn’t read this novel.  But if you are going to vote on the best novel ballot I do suggest you read the first chapter.  I’m not a supporter of just using NO AWARD on categories I’ve not actually read**, which is why I’ll be skipping the short fiction categories in their entirety.

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*The same can’t be said for “hate-watching”.  I only watch Under The Dome so I can moan and groan about it on Facebook and then read Grady Hendrix’s heeeelarious reviews of the show on tor.com.

** I appreciate why people whom I respect are doing this.  I understand the political message they are sending.  But it just doesn’t sit right with me.  If I’m going to give a critical opinion – which is what voting NO AWARD is – I need to have at least tasted what’s on offer, even if it’s only a single paragraph.

2 comments

  1. Cat

    I will be voting No Award above anything from a slate because No Award is how you say “this didn’t get here fairly.”

    That said, I’ll also read them–only *one* work can go in that sixth place slot, after all, and I couldn’t possibly choose which without reading them.

    Let me rephrase that: I’ll read them provided they are in the packet or otherwise available for free. If someone diddled the Hugo nominations to make money to hell with them.

    1. Mondyboy

      That’s definitely your prerogative. I can most definitely see the value of No Award as a political tool and sending a message.

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